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Is SMS Marketing Dead in the Water for Ski Resorts?

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Meeting someone who doesn’t text is often like meeting someone who isn’t on social media (though I find they are often the same people). While they exist, they are rare. My parents even shoot me a text every few weeks, approximately the same amount of time it takes them to produce each message.

With adoption so high and phones in the pocked of so many skiers, shouldn’t SMS be a gold mine for resort marketing?

I’m leaning toward “no” for four reasons.

The first issue is cost. Even in bulk, marketers typically spend around $0.05 per SMS message (up to $0.25 at times) which is anywhere from 5-20x as much as many per-email costs.

SMS is like an email with just a subject line. While character limits work fine for Twitter where there is no per-message fees, the limitations are another strike against this channel.

I’ve seen resorts send emails to guests that are in-resort (instead of SMS messages) and get 50%+ open rates . Squaw built “free” messaging right into their mobile app.

I don’t have any first hand experience with this, but I’ve heard from resort trying to build these lists that the capture rate is frustratingly low. Alternatively, verifying that a number in your database accepts texts can be problematic as well so you’re not paying to send messages to non-texting phones.

My Verdict
In my book, SMS just doesn’t add up with you look at alternatives. If you can send an email, full of creative, to someone who isn’t at a computer and get 50% opens at a fraction of the cost without having to build a new list or verify if a guest wants/uses texting, SMS loses any attractiveness it had.

Even the one-time cost of building on an app platform like Squaw seems it would pay off in the long run if direct-to-phone messages are a key element in your strategy going forward.

  • Nice post Gregg.

    Two thoughts come to mind:

    1. Texting is a uniquely personal action. In general, the people you text with are people you know (keyword being ‘people’). And it appears they don’t want your text spam: (

    2. To your point about list creation and management, why beat yourself up to market via a medium that is difficult to manage, costs more, returns less and (see above) does not want you there in the first place.

    Oh, right, because it is a buzzword.

    Remember, the email icon is right next to the message icon on most phones…if not already merged into the same inbox.

    – Troy

    • Great points, Troy, especially about the nature of texting. When I get a text, I expect it to be from a person and honestly feel mentally ripped off when it’s not. Never thought about it that way but makes a ton of sense..

      Yeah, it just doesn’t add up any way you approach it.

      • Honestly, I am still trying to opt-out of the ‘free’ messages I get from ATT.

        – Troy

  • Ryan Conway

    I couldn’t agree more. First off, I NEVER sign up for text alerts from anyone. I actually get kind of offended when I get text messages from corporations or businesses. With social media you can post pictures, links, stories, etc. Text messages are often forgotten as they are being read. Your marketing energy and dollars can be spent much better somewhere else.

    • So true on how quickly they are forgotten, Ryan. In an industry where marketing dollars are hardly endless I think your last sentence is key, money is simply better spent elsewhere.

  • When I was at Powderhorn, we were early adopters of SMS and had a lot of success with it…but this was in 2007-08. We even won an NSAA award for it. But that was before every phone had an app for Facebook, Twitter and email. Like you said, with high open rates, the emails are working just fine at a fraction of the cost. Facebook and Twitter are nearly no-cost avenues that include interaction with guests. It was a good medium for a niche audience at a transitional time. I think you’re correct that SMS has run it’s course. I would even argue that it’s been unnecessary for a couple years now.

    • I think you’d win that argument, Sarah. Interesting that you found early success at Powderhorn with it early on, I remember a local pizza company getting me into their restaurant a bunch of times through SMS a handful of years ago, but since I’ve entered the smartphone fold, email has been the medium that’s impacted my behavior the most (by far).

  • Paul Reddy

    In education marketing, the towel’s been thrown in and stepped on for branding and promotion. But adoption is on the rise for “engagement” marketing – building/reinforcing relationships with students up to and beyond the first day of school, and (with links to forms and content) getting them to take specific actions that reduce the risk of “melt” – not showing up for the first day of school. So maybe there’s still a place for SMS as a remarketing/engagement vehicle to influence destination guest purchasing behavior?

    • Perhaps, but it seems all those goals can still be accomplished in skiing with more cost-effective channels.

      • Ryan Conway

        I think that is the key phrase here, “more cost-effective channels”. The dollars spent on SMS just don’t have a great ROI and customer/consumer engagement is low.

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